I've been thinking about productivity, leisure, life, meaning (or lackof), hobbies, fulfillment, purpose, and whatever other "big" words that hold some sort of intrinsic, if indefinable meaning in our lives on a day to day, or week to week, or month to month basis lately. I realized that very few of the things I find myself doing in my free time are things that I actually look forward to or even really enjoy the majority of the time.
I finished reading The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean last night. It wasn't a particularly breathtaking work of art, but it was good, better than anything I could write, and I enjoyed my eyes pounding through the pages last night, the story picking up speed as I got closer to the end of the book. That little bit of excitement as things start to turn in favor of the hero, or the sense of dread as twists go wrong. Just really enjoyed the moment, having sat in my chair for several hours reading the book.
But there was a klaxon going off faintly in the back of my head, constantly pinging whenever my mind would drift from the hyper focus of the book contents:
"Think of the review." Over and over, always there, remember what you're reading so you can call it back later in the review.
"Should you write down this quote? It might be good for the review." "Have you been mapping out the major plot points for the review?" "You should think of what images would go well with the review."
I started a new Substack newsletter a few weeks ago, "Books in a Dumpster," wherein I read books and review them. You might've seen a post about it on The Reading Project, which was very kind of them to give a plug for me reviewing books considering I still technically owe them a review for their site. I started this review newsletter as a proactive measure to somehow conjure more motivation from the dwindling supply I have left of it from writing my other newsletter, "The Weirdy Wordy" for 106 consecutive weeks.
Weird Word started off as something different and fun, a thing to push myself to come up with funny ideas, create new or interesting things, and make something that went against the grain of the usually non-fiction newsletter community. I spent probably the first year of it really enjoying the process; refining my abilities, understanding what worked and what didn't, and marketing the newsletter to get an audience for it.
This last part, the finding an audience, was the hardest and most integral part of the entire newsletter. There was this surge of "make money writing a newsletter" going around whatever parts of the internet I was haunting, especially at the relatively new platform Substack. I was friendly with some online writers who actually did make money/make a living from writing their newsletter, and I was getting their marketing push and etc etc. There was always "how will I monetize this" going on in the background of my Weirdy Wordy endeavors, even if still to this date the newsletter is 100% free.
At some point in 2022 everything turned on me though, I felt like the life of the project was entirely gone. I had figured out all the little tricks of the trade to get each issue as formulaic and easy-to-produce as possible. I did this in an effort to wrestle the ever-present monkey of "next week's issue" off my back as quickly and efficiently as I could. Life makes it hard to always put up a weekly creative effort without fail, and because of that, we want the path of least resistance. Or, I do, at least.
There was no joy in the writing, just connecting words together to put down anything on the page that seemed somewhat intelligible. A lot of my writing felt like a chatbot wrote it on The Weirdy Wordy. It was still me writing, but it was just uninspired drivel, almost automatic-writing as our surrealist friends would employ. Sit down, blank out your mind, write it down.
Books in a Dumpster was my effort to force myself to get back to a creative output I was proud of, but in a new format. I was hoping this would force me to try new things, write with different styles, and whatever else self-actualizing type bullshit I wrote down in my notebook.
Instead, it's mostly just felt like another monkey on my back, this time putting pressure on me to always be reading my current book, and to always be reading it with a reviewer's eye. "Read a little more today, you might be able to finish it tomorrow. Write your review and then start the next book."
It's my own damn brain creating ways to destroy itself, like I'm the snikky snakey Ouroboros eating my own tail.
Last year I started writing little reviews of all the books I read and posting the reviews on this site, No Happy Nonsense. I did this in secret; all the links are in an unlisted directory, all the updates were deleted from the little social thing that Neocities does.
The reviews were simple and informal; a few paragraphs of whatever my main thoughts of the book were, but nothing meant for anyone to read. I didn't think about the review itself while reading any of the books, just enjoyed the act of reading and then would later recall the book and jot some ideas down about it. Sometimes it was months later, but it didn't matter to me. The process worked, I was reading books and reviewing them and it was enjoyable.
Now it feels like this Books in a Dumpster thing was just a shitty, commercialized-to-be version of my quaint little secret review page. And for what?
...this all sort of dawned on me over the past few hours after talking with my wife. It truly hit me that I've been writing El Weirdo Wordo for so long with basically no purpose. I get absolutely no enjoyment whatsoever from it, and instead of being a smart person and being like "hmm, I should stop doing this hobby that I find no enjoyment in whatsoever," my reaction was to double down and START ANOTHER NEWSLETTER.
So, I'm closing up shop on both of them, effective immediately. I know a few Neocities neighbors subscribe to one or both newsletters, so I figured I'd jot out this entirely too long personal fart of a blog post and let you guys know what happened and why it happened. I'm not deleting the content that exists on them currently or anything, just letting them sit and rot as little digital graveyards.
I'm not sure what creative endeavors, if any, I'll start up now, but whatever happens I'm plopping it here, on this blog, as the main focus and only online house for whatever "content" I create going forward. I like to act all high and mighty by saying "I don't have social media" but then I'm some asshole who's on Reddit and Substack for 12 hours a day and like, come on man. There's a working skateboard in your basement and your hometown streets waiting just outside your door. Start enjoying hobbies again, life is too weird and short to do unfun shit.
In an ideal world, I'll just stick to my current hobbies that I actually do enjoy and maybe add a few more now that I have a lack of persistent self-imposed deadlines. I'm sure that itch to post something out in the endless void of the internet will come back calling though. When that moment does come, it's good to know Neocities will be here for me.